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Five killed as tree derails train

A popular tourist train has overturned in Taiwan's southern mountains, killing five Chinese visitors.

The Government Information Office said Wednesday's crash injured 61 other people, 23 seriously. There was no immediate information on their nationalities.

President Ma Ying-jeou said a large tree fell into the path of the oncoming train. "I feel very grieved by the accident," he said, adding that it would be investigated thoroughly.

TV footage showed at least three carriages overturned along a slope and rescuers tending to victims.

The Alishan rail line, running east from the southern city of Chiayi, corkscrews through steep mountains and has long been one of Taiwan's premier tourist attractions. Most of the line has been closed since a devastating typhoon struck Taiwan in August 2009, but a small portion near the top has been reopened and is where the accident occurred.

Alishan has been especially popular among Chinese tourists.

Mr Ma has made improving relations with China the centrepiece of his three-year-old administration. The two sides split amid civil war in 1949 and the mainland still claims the island as part of its territory.

Under Mr Ma's leadership, commercial ties have grown more robust and tensions between Taipei and Beijing have subsided to their lowest level in 60 years.

One of the most tangible areas of improvement has been a steady rise in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan. Arrivals in 2010 totalled 1.2 million, enriching the island's coffers by some £1.2 billion.

Late last year the government acted quickly to soothe the feelings of relatives of 20 Chinese tourists who were killed when their bus skidded off a road during a storm in eastern Taiwan.

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